Dan Piersma, Assistant Sports Editor
After a historic 25-2-2 season, the Utica College Men’s hockey team was cut short because of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, but the team still had something to smile about.
Riding a 20-game win streak and being named the number one seed in the division three NCAA tournament, they looked poised to bring a national championship back to UC.
For this performance, head coach Gary Heenan was awarded NCAA Division III Coach of the Year by United States College Hockey Online (USCHO). Even though he wanted a national championship, Heenan was still able to celebrate the honor, but he didn’t take all the credit.
“It’s an unreal honor to be named coach of the year,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, this is a team award.”
Heenan has been the only Utica College Men’s hockey coach since the program’s inception during the 2001-2002 season. His track record has been nothing short of incredible.
This year was the 16th consecutive year that he has led the Pioneers to the playoffs, and he was quick to give praise to every member in the hockey team, not just himself.
“The guys lay it on the line each night and our team of assistants and support personnel all massively contribute,” Heenan said.
The thing with college is every year you’re going to lose a couple players to graduation. This year the hockey team is losing 4 players.
You’re also going to gain a few players that will contribute a lot to the team over the next couple years.
“We graduated only four, but those four were monsters for us,” Heenan said. “Should we be optimistic – for sure. But there’s work to be done.”
Junior Connor Landrigan, who has spent all three years on the team said he was very happy for him.
“To get the recognition of your peers for doing an outstanding job has to be exciting and fulfilling,” he said.
Even though the season was cut short and most were forced to leave campus for the remainder of the semester, Heenan made sure to get his team together one more time to celebrate the season.
“(Heenan) did a really great job getting everybody together on short notice to celebrate the season we had,” Landrigan said. “So that was really nice to kind of come together one final time before everyone departed.”
With the way things ended, the team missed the opportunity of demonstrating that they can compete on a national level.
“I think there’s always that fire in your belly, or chip on your shoulder,” Landrigan said. “It was disappointing not to be able to go to the national tournament, but we understand that the current situation is more important than hockey right now.”